Tuesday, June 21, 2016

We Used To Be Inseparable, But Now We've Grown Apart

Way, way back in March of 1965, on the Monday night of a week-long series of church services(formerly known as a "revival"), I was not yet eight years old...but I was aware of my need for a savior.

I knew I was not perfect and that I preferred things my way instead of God's. I knew that no amount of "I'm sorry"s or helping little old ladies across the street could make up for my sins  -  even as tame as they seem now, compared to what I've done since then.

On that night, in that little church in Northeast Indiana, I declared my utter dependence on Jesus and was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Joining me in taking the plunge that night were two of my friends, Kevin and Kim. Kim was a deacon's kid, like me, but Kevin was the son of our preacher.

A lot of calendar pages have bit the dust since then, and all three of us have grown older than we'd care to admit. All three of our fathers have died. Kim's was first, and far too soon. Kevin's came later...mine, last.

Kim and I lost track of each other, but my path has crossed with Kevin's a few times.

When I was attending Bible college to prepare for vocational ministry (which was a delayed decision for me...6 years after high school), Beloved and I and our growing family attended the church where Kevin was serving as Youth Minister.

In 1984, I graduated from college and became the youth minister at a congregation close to my stomping grounds in Northeast Indiana. Kevin moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to help start a church there.

And now, having spent 14 years as a youth minister in four different congregations, and several more years as a proofreader and technical writer, I am on the board of elders and help lead worship at the church where my final stint as youth minister was.

Kevin? He's now the Lead Pastor at that church in Las Vegas, and it is the 9th-largest congregation in our "fellowship of churches" (which is what we Independent Christian Church people prefer to call ourselves, rather than a "denomination"). Almost 7,000 people hear him preach every week.

I think about how we started at the same place at the same time and how different our situations are now and I'm not sure I can put into words how weird that feels.

But it reminds me of the scene at the end of John's gospel where Jesus is talking to Peter and telling him that he will die a martyr's death. "Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them...When Peter saw him, he asked, 'Lord, what about him?' Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me'." (John 21:20-22)

Truth is...no two people ever walk the exact same path through life. Comparing yourself to anyone else will either result in unproductive pride or unwarranted self-loathing. What does anyone else's accomplishments or lack thereof have to do with your particular faithfulness to God?

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